Athens in Austin Celebrates 10 Years at The Side Bar

Photo Credit: Mike White


Heading east on 7th Street, my heart sank a little at the prospect of getting into another line—one that from my perspective seemingly flowed all the way from The Side Bar to the Wendy’s at the exit ramp on Interstate 35. After getting a little closer, it became apparent the long line was not in fact people clamoring for access to the 10th annual Athens in Austin SXSW showcase. Most would argue he’s gone soft of late, but nevertheless these fans were standing in the high noon sun waiting to see Waka Flocka Flame at the bar next door.

The Side Bar has hosted this event since the inception. It’s a no-frills, dimly lit dive bar where bands perform on the floor, by the front door. The gravel courtyard out back, with a makeshift stage and tent, is contained by a third-world, institutional cinder-block wall. It’s wonderful.

Frontman Henry Barbe made a joke about being hungry before introducing the last song in The Hernies’ set. He said it was about Star Wars, then lost his mind and his guitar. Guitarist Robbie Rapp (Muuy Biien) jumped on stage and scorched. There was calamity. At an industry showcase like SXSW the band could probably get away with playing “Padawan For Your Love” first and last. The perfect two-song set.

Muuy Biien will probably not parlay their Athens in Austin afternoon experience into a coast-to-coast tour, booking nothing but outdoor shows at lunchtime. But they could. Josh Evans is spontaneously kinetic. The band has never sounded better.

By the time Mothers took the outdoor stage, the courtyard was nearing capacity. Despite the unofficialness of the event, there were dozens of laminated badges swinging from lanyards. The tastemakers have taken note. Their latest, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired, has only been out a few weeks, but we’re all very interested in what the future holds for Mothers. No pressure, y’all.

New Madrid, playing just their seventh set of the festival, covered Television and played “Manners,” a song that sits at the intersection of anthem and hymn—and the one that you should download legally in one paragraph. 

If Athens music was an adult magazine, T. Hardy Morris would be the centerfold. He and the Hardknocks closed the show to a capacity crowd, unfazed by the technical difficulties and myriad distractions. Their setlist was peppered with should-be hits “Disaster Proof,” “Audition Tapes” and “Share The Needle,” so if there’s any justice at SXSW, this band should be a household name by Monday.